Voters overwhelmingly support EPA air pollution rules
WASHINGTON -- A new, nationwide poll shows that by a wide margin, voters of both political parties and in all regions of the U.S. disagree with Congress’ anti-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agenda and support the EPA’s new rules to limit air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Two-thirds of the respondents – 67 percent – oppose Congress delaying implementation of the air pollution rules, according to the national survey of 1,400 voters conducted by Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group and sponsored by Ceres.
“American voters, both Democrats and Republicans, are unified in backing prompt EPA action on the clean air rules,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber. “Regardless of affiliation, voters want a healthy environment and an end to foot-dragging to upgrade dirty power plants. Despite the rhetoric in Washington, clean air is not a partisan issue among Americans, and Congress would do well to take notice.”
“Although some in Congress oppose these rules, the level of support from Republican voters is surprisingly strong,” said Greg Strimple of GS Strategy Group, a Republican pollster who jointly conducted the research. “The research clearly demonstrates Republican voters are willing to support new rules to reduce harmful emissions in order to improve public health. Republicans like clean air, too.”
The poll, conducted August 31 - September 7, gauged voters’ feelings about two EPA clean air rules — the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (aka Utility MACT). The first rule will require significant reductions in harmful power plant emissions, mostly from coal-fired generators, that drift hundreds of miles downwind and across state lines. The second rule will require power plants to curb toxic emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gases by 2015. Many of the power plants impacted by these rules are more than 50 years old.
These are the same two rules that Ceres and the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute evaluated earlier this year with respect to economic and job-creation benefits the rules would bring across the United States: www.ceres.org/resources/reports/new-jobs-cleaner-air.
Among the poll’s key findings:
- 88% of Democrats, 85% of Independents, and 58% of Republicans oppose Congress stopping the EPA from enacting new limits on air pollution from electric power plants.
- 67% of voters support the CSAPR and 77% of voters support the Toxics rule.
- 65% of voters surveyed are confident that the health and environmental benefits of air pollution standards outweigh the costs of complying with them.
- 79% of voters agree that the rules are important to enact for health reasons.
- 75% of voters believe a compelling reason to implement these rules is the boost to local economies and thousands of new jobs that will be created from investments in new technology.
Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, which jointly conducted the poll observed, “Despite the vitriol coming from Capitol Hill, the research shows that not only do voters see that it is an important issue, the undeniable consensus is that they support these rules. The fear of not having clean air is a clear-cut issue according to the voting public. And, not only do voters overwhelmingly support the EPA’s clean air rules, they firmly believe EPA should be allowed to do its job without interference from Congress.”
Support Extends Across Party Lines
This poll found that support for the EPA air pollution rules extends across the political spectrum. By three to one (75%) the public believes that the EPA, not Congress, should determine whether stricter limits are needed on air pollution from electric power plants. This is a view supported by members of all parties, with 85% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans, and 79% of Independents in agreement.
Key Regional Findings
Across the country, voters support CSAPR, with 71% of voters from the Northeast, 66% of voters in the South, 62% of voters in the Midwest, and 71% of voters from the West in favor. Similarly, support for the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule is high nationwide: 80% of voters in the Northeast, 75% of voters in the South, 72% of voters in the Midwest, and 83% of voters in the West in support.
Voters Recognize the Benefits
Voters see threats to water and health as the most important reasons for enacting new EPA air pollution rules. In fact, 80% of voters surveyed feel it is important to enact new rules because coal-burning power plants contribute to water pollution via deposition of airborne pollutants that eventually settle in our water bodies. 79% of voters agree that the rules are important for health reasons, as power plant pollution is responsible for more than 24,000 premature deaths, 38,000 non-fatal heart attacks, and more than 550,000 asthma attacks each year.
These rules will save lives and, according to research sponsored by Ceres on the economic impact of the rules, create 1.4 million new jobs over the next five years through investments in pollution controls, new plant construction, and retirement of older, less efficient power plants as the country transitions to a cleaner, modernized generation fleet. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed believe job creation from these rules is an important reason to enact them.
That report, “New Jobs-Cleaner Air: Employment Effects under Planned Changes to EPA’s Air Pollution Rules,” found that installing modern pollution controls and building new power plants creates a wide array of skilled, high-paying installation, construction and professional jobs, as well as jobs at companies that manufacture pollution controls and other required construction/maintenance equipment. The report was prepared by Dr. James Heintz of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group conducted this online nationwide survey, among 1,400 voters, between August 31-September 7, 2011. More details about the poll can be found here.
Ceres is a leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of 98 investors with $9.5 trillion of collective assets focused on the business impacts of climate change. www.ceres.org
About Hart Research Associates
Founded in 1971, Hart Research Associates is one of the leading survey research firms in the United States and has been at the cutting edge of change in the field of public opinion for more than three decades. In that time, the firm has conducted well over 5,000 public opinion surveys and has administered and analyzed interviews among more than three million individuals.
About GS Strategy Group
GS Strategy Group is a nationally recognized public opinion research firm based in Boise, ID. GSSG clients benefit from Greg Strimple's unique combination of expertise in public opinion and consumer behavior, award-winning work in advertising, and extensive knowledge of regulated industries, the political process and public policymaking. Greg has leveraged his research, analytical and communications skills to devise and execute successful public policy and marketing campaigns for some of the country's leading corporations and institutions.